Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Open Letter to the PGA Tour

Dear PGA Tour,
I don’t mind that Augusta National is a men’s club. I don’t mind that the CEO of IBM was not offered membership to Augusta because she’s a woman.
I’m a woman and I’m told I’m supposed to mind. I’m the mother of a daughter and I’m told I’m supposed to mind. Jesus would mind, according to Maureen Dowd. But I don’t.
It’s just sports sponsorship. It doesn’t affect the quality of public education or any aspect of U.S. global military intervention. It doesn't really matter.
Playing Passive Defense
Other people don't seem to mind, either. So far both Augusta National and IBM have been mute on the subject of Mrs. Rometty’s membership (or lack thereof).
But the real creep has yet to speak up.
This is not IBM’s problem. It’s not Augusta’s problem. It’s not a woman problem.
This is the PGA’s problem.
The PGA Tour allowed this. The PGA Tour chose The Masters. You call it The Masters. You make it prominent, you publicize it, you make it a “major,” you make it matter. The PGA Tour created this problem by allowing a venue that forbids female members to host such an important event. 
What would happen if NASCAR publicized Daytona as “The Super Bowl of NASCAR” and Daytona forbade women competitors? Would Danica Patrick be prevented from wrecking qualifying?
A Game of Exclusion
No one doubts that golf is a rich man’s game. Despite youth outreach programs and reduced greens fees for students; despite thousands of public courses nationwide and collegiate scholarships; despite the LPGA standouts and a decent minor league; Golf is a rich man’s game. (More on the LPGA and how amazing those women are another time.)
So the venues that host PGA Tour events are rich-man venues. Kapalua Resort, Torrey Pines, TPC Scottsdale, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
The very structure of the PGA Tour enables the perpetuation of the rich man’s game. The PGA doesn’t own the venues it visits; not like the NFL franchises that have to buy into the league and provide adequate facilities for competition.
The Carolina Panthers could not vacate Bank of America stadium and play on the field behind Independence High School in Charlotte. Not just because the crowd wouldn’t fit and the traffic would be miserable. But because the NFL requires more of its franchises.
Man Up
The PGA should have taken on the Augusta rule years ago. It could remove The Masters from the Tour. It could call The Masters “exhibition” and let players participate without earning championship points. It could even host a competing tournament elsewhere on the same weekend.
The PGA could devalue The Masters, it could degrade Augusta, it could stand up for gender equality. It could say some traditions have run their course. It could set standards for its host venues beyond fairway length and second-cut thickness.
It could move on from the archaic and take the rest of us with it.
But it doesn’t.
Cash In
Every year the PGA stands as if blameless while Augusta takes the heat for a membership policy that is completely within its rights and the sponsors take the heat for funding a tournament that gets a larger television audience than any other event.
But the sponsors’ money is going into the PGA coffers and the Tour. And the money goes where the publicity is. And the PGA Tour determines where the publicity is.
It’s been a great strategy, PGA Tour, to deflect the controversy as if it were outside of your control. But as Roger Goodell could tell you, part of running a successful professional sports organization is taking on the controversies and making the right decision. Even if it isn’t the popular one.
Oh, and, if there is some article somewhere that offers a PGA legitimization of this whole debacle, please add it as a comment. Google and I couldn’t find anything.
Kasie Whitener
Weekend golfer and Mommy to One-Putt Hollie, future LPGA Great ;-)

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